Trials and Tribulations

Who Experiences Trials and Tribulations?

Trials and tribulations are an undeniable part of this worldly life. What constitutes a trial or tribulation differs from person to person, yet every person is being tested in some form or many forms–be it through ease or through hardship, in matters of health, relationships, wealth, and more.

People who came before us were also tested–not sparing neither the pious nor the powerful. Many of the most beloved people to Allah went through various types of major tests. They serve as a reminder for all of us–to appreciate how they withstood those trials and how perseverance pays off.

It was narrated from Mus’ab bin Sa’d that his father Sa’d bin Abu Waqqas said, “I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, which people are most severely tested?’ He said, ‘The prophets, then the next best and the next best. A person is tested according to his religious commitment. If he is steadfast in his religious commitment, he will be tested more severely, and if he is frail in his religious commitment, his test will be according to his commitment. Trials will continue to afflict a person until they leave him walking on the earth with no sin on him.’” [Ibn Majah]

It is not just humans who are tested. We must remember that even Iblees was confronted by a testing situation and he failed by disobeying the command of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He). There is wisdom in these tests being delivered.

Why We Experience Trials

Trials and tribulations are not necessarily delivered in proportion to our mistakes. In fact, they may not have anything to do with our mistakes but they may be presented as an opportunity to scale the obstacle and reach something better on the other side.

Trials can be a sign that Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) intends good for us, because through trials our sins are expiated and we have the opportunity to perform good deeds. Trials and tribulations are thereby a means of purification and earning nearness to Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He).

Crude oil is refined before it can be used. Gold and diamonds go through a rigorous process of purification before they reach their potential. Likewise, we must go through a spiritual purification process.

Some tribulations make us appreciate what we never appreciated before while others teach us something which protects us from bigger issues in the future. Temporary trials may appear as a reminder of the blessings that we have taken for granted. Illness makes us appreciative of health and prompts us to use our healthy days productively. Missing someone makes us appreciate that relationship and value it more when reunited. Being inconvenienced through travel and unfamiliar surroundings makes us appreciate stability and security.

Some trials are an expiation for sins that we may have forgotten about or neglected to repent from while others are an opportunity to strengthen our character and endurance.

 

لَا يُكَلِّفُ ٱللَّهُ نَفۡسًا إِلَّا وُسۡعَهَا‌ۚ

“Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity…” [Quran; 2:286]

Through our trials and tribulations we not only come to recognize our own mettle but also the true quality of the people around us. We get the opportunity to distinguish between our true supporters and wolves in sheep’s clothing.

In some cases, enduring a trial is a barter for something better in the hereafter.

“Allah said, ‘If I deprive my slave of his two beloved things (i.e., his eyes) and he remains patient, I will let him enter Paradise in compensation for them.'” [Bukhari]

“No calamity befalls a Muslim but that Allah expiates some of his sins because of it, even though it were the prick he receives from a thorn.” [Sahih Bukhari]

“When Allah wants good for his slave, He hastens his punishment in the world. And when He wants bad for His slave, He withholds his sins from him until he appears before Him on the Day of Judgement.” [Tirmidhi]

“This people of mine is one to which mercy is shown. It will have no punishment in the next world, but its punishment in this world will be trials, earthquakes and being killed.” [Abu Dawud]

“If Allah wants to do good to somebody, He afflicts him with trials.” [Bukhari]

“When Allah wants good for his slave, He hastens his punishment in the world. And when He wants bad for His slave, He withholds his sins from him until he appears before Him on the Day of Judgement.” [Tirmidhi]

“Indeed greater reward comes with greater trial. And indeed, when Allah loves a people He subjects them to trials, so whoever is content, then for him is pleasure, and whoever is discontent, then for him is wrath.” [Tirmidhi]

“When a slave’s child dies, Allah the Most High asks His angels, ‘Have you taken out the life of the child of My slave?” They reply in the affirmative. He then asks, ‘Have you taken the fruit of his heart?’ They reply in the affirmative. Thereupon he asks, ‘What has My slave said?’ They say: ‘He has praised You and said: Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un (We belong to Allah and to Him we shall be returned). Allah says: ‘Build a house for My slave in Jannah and name it as Bait-ul-Hamd (the House of Praise).”‘ [Tirmidhi]

Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) says, “My faithful servant’s reward from Me, if I have taken to Me his best friend from amongst the inhabitants of the world and he has then borne it patiently for My sake, shall be nothing less than Paradise.” [Hadith Qudsi]

Therefore our efforts should be not to avoid the test, but rather to succeed through it and earn the pleasure of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He). Being tested is part of the plan rather than an anomaly.

 

تَبَـٰرَكَ ٱلَّذِى بِيَدِهِ ٱلۡمُلۡكُ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىۡءٍ۬ قَدِيرٌ (١) ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَ ٱلۡمَوۡتَ وَٱلۡحَيَوٰةَ لِيَبۡلُوَكُمۡ أَيُّكُمۡ أَحۡسَنُ عَمَلاً۬‌ۚ وَهُوَ ٱلۡعَزِيزُ ٱلۡغَفُورُ(٢)

“Blessed is He in whose hand is dominion, and He is over all things competent – [He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving.” [Quran; 67:1-2]

 

وَلَنَبۡلُوَنَّكُم بِشَىۡءٍ۬ مِّنَ ٱلۡخَوۡفِ وَٱلۡجُوعِ وَنَقۡصٍ۬ مِّنَ ٱلۡأَمۡوَٲلِ وَٱلۡأَنفُسِ وَٱلثَّمَرَٲتِ‌ۗ وَبَشِّرِ ٱلصَّـٰبِرِينَ (١٥٥) ٱلَّذِينَ إِذَآ أَصَـٰبَتۡهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ۬ قَالُوٓاْ إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّآ إِلَيۡهِ رَٲجِعُونَ (١٥٦) أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ عَلَيۡہِمۡ صَلَوَٲتٌ۬ مِّن رَّبِّهِمۡ وَرَحۡمَةٌ۬‌ۖ وَأُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلۡمُهۡتَدُونَ (١٥٧)

“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, Who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.” Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided.” [Quran; 2:155-157]

 

أَمۡ حَسِبۡتُمۡ أَن تَدۡخُلُواْ ٱلۡجَنَّةَ وَلَمَّا يَأۡتِكُم مَّثَلُ ٱلَّذِينَ خَلَوۡاْ مِن قَبۡلِكُم‌ۖ مَّسَّتۡہُمُ ٱلۡبَأۡسَآءُ وَٱلضَّرَّآءُ وَزُلۡزِلُواْ حَتَّىٰ يَقُولَ ٱلرَّسُولُ وَٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ مَعَهُ ۥ مَتَىٰ نَصۡرُ ٱللَّهِ‌ۗ أَلَآ إِنَّ نَصۡرَ ٱللَّهِ قَرِيبٌ۬ (٢١٤)

“Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while such [trial] has not yet come to you as came to those who passed on before you? They were touched by poverty and hardship and were shaken until [even their] messenger and those who believed with him said, “When is the help of Allah?” Unquestionably, the help of Allah is near.” [Quran; 2:214]

 

لَقَدۡ خَلَقۡنَا ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنَ فِى كَبَدٍ (٤)

“We have certainly created man into hardship.” [Quran; 90:4]

There is no need to find people or sources to blame. Even in the face of oppression–be it small or great–we must remember not to allow our suffering to trigger us into committing further acts of injustice or oppression.

“Whoever has wronged his brother, should ask for his pardon (before his death), as (in the Hereafter) there will be neither a Dinar nor a Dirham. (He should secure pardon in this life) before some of his good deeds are taken and paid to his brother, or if he has done no good deeds, some of the bad deeds of his brother are taken to be loaded on him (in the Hereafter).” [Bukhari]

 

يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ كُونُواْ قَوَّٲمِينَ لِلَّهِ شُہَدَآءَ بِٱلۡقِسۡطِ‌ۖ وَلَا يَجۡرِمَنَّڪُمۡ شَنَـَٔانُ قَوۡمٍ عَلَىٰٓ أَلَّا تَعۡدِلُواْ‌ۚ ٱعۡدِلُواْ هُوَ أَقۡرَبُ لِلتَّقۡوَىٰ‌ۖ وَٱتَّقُواْ ٱللَّهَ‌ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ خَبِيرُۢ بِمَا تَعۡمَلُونَ (٨)

“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do.” [Quran; 5:8]

As the saying goes, if you are only good to those who are good to you, then what good are you?

Very few things in life are attained without some sort of test and research. Be it buying a car, or seeking knowledge, there has to be some effort coupled with trial and error. These not only test our sincerity in attaining the objective but also help us appreciate the end goal more once we have attained it, because there was some striving involved.

A bigger reflection, however, is that we are limited in our abilities and need Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) to take care of our affairs, to help us, to forgive us, and have mercy on us.

The Age of Instant Gratification

“How wonderful is the case of a believer; there is good for him in everything and this applies only to a believer. If prosperity attends him, he expresses gratitude to Allah and that is good for him; and if adversity befalls him, he endures it patiently and that is better for him”. [Muslim]

Willpower and patience are muscles that can be trained to push known limits, yet we find they have atrophied from lack of exercise instead. A headache is instantly cured with a pill. Information is at our fingertips whenever we want it. We can seemingly reach anyone anywhere at any time and expect to hear back from them almost immediately. Education (or rather a certificate) can be attained via the fast track. It seems one does not have to work a lifetime to be wealthy but can attain wealth instantly through a “miracle formula”.

It may be that what appears to be a form of misfortune has actually come about as mercy from Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) in that it forewarns us to check ourselves and take corrective measures so that we do not fall into more serious trouble either in this world or in the hereafter. It may also be that an apparent misfortune actually prevents us from real misfortune. A simple example of this is missing a flight that was destined to crash, but what about calamities that we never see for ourselves but only Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows about? Thus we have to trust His Infinite Wisdom.

 

وَعَسَىٰٓ أَن تَكۡرَهُواْ شَيۡـًٔ۬ا وَهُوَ خَيۡرٌ۬ لَّڪُمۡ‌ۖ وَعَسَىٰٓ أَن تُحِبُّواْ شَيۡـًٔ۬ا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ۬ لَّكُمۡ‌ۗ وَٱللَّهُ يَعۡلَمُ وَأَنتُمۡ لَا تَعۡلَمُونَ (٢١٦)

“…But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.” [Quran; 2:216]

Tawakkul

A believer must develop reliance on Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He). This is known as tawakkul. It is to put one’s trust in Allah completely and believe that He alone can ward off harm and He alone can bring benefit. Equipped with tawakkul, a believer is able to accept various turns of events without becoming engulfed in anxiety or sorrow.

 

وَيَرۡزُقۡهُ مِنۡ حَيۡثُ لَا يَحۡتَسِبُ‌ۚ وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلۡ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ فَهُوَ حَسۡبُهُ ۥۤ‌ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ بَـٰلِغُ أَمۡرِهِۦ‌ۚ قَدۡ جَعَلَ ٱللَّهُ لِكُلِّ شَىۡءٍ۬ قَدۡرً۬ا (٣)

“And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent.” [Quran; 65:3]

 

Tawakkul is not an excuse for inaction. Rather, it is about striving with one’s best effort while relying on Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) to take care of one’s affairs and leaving the outcome to Him. There is no worry or anxiety in the process of striving.

A daughter of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) sent a message to him that her son was at his last breath, and requested him to come to her. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) sent back the informer saying, “To Allah belongs what He takes and what He gives, and everything has a limited period (in this world). So ask her to endure patiently, and expect the reward of Allah.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

We have become accustomed to instant gratification and thereby patience is in limited supply. Life, on the other hand, does not always serve our need for instant gratification. It does not always go according to plan. Are we equipped to hustle and struggle? Are we willing to endure until we see the light at the end of the tunnel, or the view after the climb? Do we have tawakkul and persevere or do we complain, blame, and feel like victims? That is a test.

 …وَإِنَّآ إِذَآ أَذَقۡنَا ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنَ مِنَّا رَحۡمَةً۬ فَرِحَ بِہَا‌ۖ وَإِن تُصِبۡہُمۡ سَيِّئَةُۢ بِمَا قَدَّمَتۡ أَيۡدِيهِمۡ فَإِنَّ ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنَ كَفُورٌ۬ (٤٨)

“…And indeed, when We let man taste mercy from us, he rejoices in it; but if evil afflicts him for what his hands have put forth, then indeed, man is ungrateful.” [Quran; 42:48]

فَأَمَّا ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنُ إِذَا مَا ٱبۡتَلَٮٰهُ رَبُّهُ ۥ فَأَكۡرَمَهُ ۥ وَنَعَّمَهُ ۥ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّىٓ أَكۡرَمَنِ (١٥) وَأَمَّآ إِذَا مَا ٱبۡتَلَٮٰهُ فَقَدَرَ عَلَيۡهِ رِزۡقَهُ ۥ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّىٓ أَهَـٰنَنِ (١٦)

“And as for man, when his Lord tries him and [thus] is generous to him and favors him, he says, “My Lord has honored me.” But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, “My Lord has humiliated me.” [Quran; 89:15-16]

Such is the nature of the human being. Alternating between ease and hardship is in itself a means of turning back to Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) time and time again.

Suffering, Anguish, Misery

At some point, one may start to wonder why there is so much suffering in the world. At the same time, there are elements out there who try to make people second-guess their faith and ask questions along the lines of, “Would an All-Merciful and All-Powerful God allow suffering and evil?” This results in youngsters, especially, having their faith shaken as they have not yet attained the maturity or guidance to deal with such elements.

It is noteworthy that the angels themselves asked Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) about placing mankind on Earth:

وَإِذۡ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلۡمَلَـٰٓٮِٕكَةِ إِنِّى جَاعِلٌ۬ فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ خَلِيفَةً۬‌ۖ قَالُوٓاْ أَتَجۡعَلُ فِيہَا مَن يُفۡسِدُ فِيہَا وَيَسۡفِكُ ٱلدِّمَآءَ وَنَحۡنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمۡدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ‌ۖ قَالَ إِنِّىٓ أَعۡلَمُ مَا لَا تَعۡلَمُونَ (٣٠)

And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority.” They said, “Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?” Allah said, “Indeed, I know that which you do not know.” [Quran; 2:30]

The response was not a deep, rational, philosophical rebuttal on every point, but rather a profound statement requiring one to trust Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) in His infinite knowledge and wisdom behind what He decrees because He knows and we do not.

لَا يُسۡـَٔلُ عَمَّا يَفۡعَلُ وَهُمۡ يُسۡـَٔلُونَ (٢٣)

“He is not questioned about what He does, but they will be questioned.” [Quran; 21:23]

The irony is that those who mock religion or God (may Allah safeguard us), have not solved any problem but have rather created a new problem. They do not have answers to questions about where mankind came from, what the purpose of life is, how we are supposed to live on Earth, etc. Yet we do have some clarification on the benefits of trials and tribulations.

Regardless, it is important to understand that this present life is not meant to be the abode of peace; it is the testing ground and abode of trials (Dar-ul-Bala’). The real abode of peace (Dar-us-Salam) is to be found in the Hereafter, by the name of Jannah. Therefore rather than seeking perpetual happiness in this life, we need to focus our efforts on abiding by the commands of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) and seeking out Jannah. Thus one of the wisdoms of having pain and suffering in this world is to allow us to pass those tests and be rewarded by responding to them with goodness and morality. We use the pain and suffering to earn the mercy of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) and eternal well-being.

We can simplify this issue by understanding that Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) is The Most Just. Therefore whatever He decrees has wisdom in it even if we do not perceive it. For example, a caring and loving doctor and father may be forced to amputate the leg of his son. There is no doubt that this father loves his son and that his action was for good reason, although it may seem cruel to those who do not understand the circumstances. Whereas the love of a human being is limited, Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) is infinite in His mercy and compassion.

Further Resources

Attributes for Success

Happiness and Success

Stress Management and Success

Patience (Attribute)

Beautiful Patience (Four Essentials)

Incident relating to Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her)

Test and Suffering

[VIDEO] Why is There Suffering in the World?

[VIDEO] How to Respond to Tests and Trials

The Believer’s Trials and Tribulations

Love of the World

The Delayed Dua Syndrome